“Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter” Book Review

March 22, 2018

This is a book that tells many stories; of family legacy apple varieties, strawberries too delicate to survive a market and trying to live off grid right out of college. The main narrative follows the authors personal journey to find a space to explore his own passions of growing and sharing heirloom plants and produce to his community. Through the authors explorations and revelations a series of much larger and more complicated tales are told.

Americas crop diversity has suffered the loss of 90 percent in the last century. A shocking fact that is hard for most of us to have a good perspective on, unless you’re well over 100 years old. Modern farming practices have caused scores of once-common fruits, grains, and vegetables to be phased out by the need for food that’s more easily shipped across long distances and stored for days, if not weeks, before getting to market. What have we really lost by catering to these new distribution and quality demands? Perhaps more importantly, how do we save the beautiful diversity that’s left?

The author visits lost orchards, searches for plants relics on old family farms and roadsides all while paying homage to many of the heroes of the seed saving and heirloom plant world. Within the story is also the message that we can be heroes too. The author states “Plant it to save it”. Each one of us can grow what we love, year after year, preserving our regions history and reaping the delicious rewards. The French call this “terroir”, the palate of a regions specific flavors, and it takes a community to keep the many pieces and complexities alive year after year and for generations to come.

Worth a read if you enjoy a delicious meal, filled with the character, freshness and culture of the region it was produced, if you grow your own vegetables or fruit trees and appreciates the many benefits, or if you care about preserving our food diversity and our culture for generations to come. A great book to remind us to think about the bigger picture, especially as we daydream about what to grow in our garden.

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